And do you need your tenant’s permission?
In my last blog, I was discussing allowing tenant pets into your property and the importance of regular landlord inspections. Which raises an important and often misunderstood question: as a landlord, how often can you inspect your own rental property?
Of course, there will be times when you want or need to visit a property that you own, i.e. because the tenant has raised an issue or because you have concerns of your own. But how often and in what circumstances can you do so and is your tenant ever able to refuse you entry?
A Landlord’s Rights of Entry
The Housing Act 1988 provides that as a landlord, you have to provide your tenants with at least 24 hours’ written notice before entering the property. Your tenancy agreement will probably also state that visits must only be made at ‘reasonable’ times of the day. If it doesn’t, you should stick to this anyway.
You have a right to enter to inspect the state of repair of the building or to empty a fuel slot meter but you must give 24 hours’ written notice before you enter.
You also have a right of reasonable access to carry out repairs. What amounts to reasonable will depend on the particular circumstances. If there is imminent danger and or an urgent need for a serious repair (water pouring through the ceiling from a burst pipe for example), it will probably entitle you to fairly immediate access but if the issue is one of fixing a curtain rail then urgent entry is not so reasonable.
For some multiple occupancy tenancies, there is sometimes a right to enter in order to provide cleaning services but this will depend on the terms of the actual tenancy agreement in place and whether you have agreed to provide a room or common area cleaning service. Check the terms of the tenancy agreement if this applies to you.
Mandatory gas safety inspection
Any gas appliances and flues in your property must be safety checked annually by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer. New regulations were introduced in April 2018 and you can read about them here.
Your tenancy agreement should allow access for any maintenance or safety check work that needs to be carried out. However, if your tenant refuses to give you or your contractor access to the property, then you will need to be able to show that you’ve taken all ‘reasonable steps’ to comply with the law. You will still need to give 24 hours’ written notice and then make reasonable but repeated attempts to carry out the safety check.
If necessary, write to the tenant explaining that a safety check is a legal requirement and keep a record of the letter or email (and how and when you sent it). If your tenant still refuses you access, you may need to take legal advice.
Frequency of inspections
There is no hard and fast rule about the frequency of landlord inspections, but anything from once a quarter to annually is reasonable. Multiple occupancy properties may require more frequent visits (monthly) and a couple of visits early on in a tenancy is always advisable, to help tenants settle in.
Your tenancy agreement should specify how often you will carry out routine inspections but if it doesn’t, let your tenant know and explain why. Remember, this is their home and many tenants worry that an inspection is an attempt to catch them out!
In some rare cases, you can access your property without giving 24 hours’ notice because it’s an emergency and there’s a threat to safety, such as:
- A fire in the property
- The smell of gas
- Structural damage that urgently needs attention
- The suspicion of a violent or criminal incident.
End of tenancy
If your tenant has given notice that they want to end the tenancy and move out, you can visit and show the property to prospective new tenants but only during the last 28 days of a standard assured shorthold tenancy agreement (unless your tenant is happy to let you show people around earlier). And you should still give 24 hours’ notice in writing.
Failure to comply with the rules
However frustrated or concerned you may be, it’s important to remember that you cannot visit and inspect your property whenever you like. It’s illegal for a landlord or your agent to enter a property without agreement from your tenant and they can refuse you entry. What’s more, you also run the risk of being prosecuted for harassment under the Housing Act 1988.
Always give your tenants 24 hours’ written notice of any planned visits. Try to be flexible and reasonable about the time. Don’t visit more than is necessary and never just let yourself in without permission, unless there’s an emergency.
Finally, bear in mind that even if you’ve done everything by the book and given 24 hours’ written notice, some tenants can still be difficult and refuse access. Never assume that they will let you or a contractor in, always keep records and however difficult your tenant is being, always ensure that your conduct is “reasonable”. That way, if you do need to get legal advice or assistance, you’ll be in the strongest possible position.
Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking
He’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.
Multi-award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.